An update from our eighth Weekly Writing Workshop!
A summary of the workshop, plus some of the output published below
The Stone Soup Weekly Writing Workshop is open to all Stone Soup contributors and subscribers during the COVID-19-related school closures and shelter-in-place arrangements. Every Friday, we meet for an hour and a half via Zoom to respond to a new writing challenge, write together in our virtual room, and then share what we have written with one another.
At our session on Friday May 22, William Rubel, Stone Soup’s founder, talked to the group about Stream of Consciousness, sharing pieces of writing from writers well-known for practicing stream of consciousness (such as James Joyce and Virginia Woolf), some abstract art, and a short clip from a surrealist stream of consciousness film (with a lot of eyeballs!). The group talked about the challenge of really letting go when writing, and then agreed to give it a try…
The Writing Challenge: Write a stream of consciousness.
The Participants: Ever, Emily, Analise, Liam, Kanav, Peri, Suman, Djin, Ma’ayan, Anya, Lucy, Georgia, Tristan, Gracie, Lauren, Sophia, Allegra, Arianna, Aviya, Michela, Maddie, Silas, Justin, Vishnu, Lewis, Kendyll, Chloe, Gina, Abhi, Laila, Ethan, Shai and more!
As usual, our participants took to the challenge with gusto, and wrote some extraordinary, accomplished pieces, some of which you can read below.
Across the Field
Anya Geist, 13
There’s a field in front of me. They tell me I have to cross it to get to the other side but I can see bees in between the grasses. I’ve been bitten by a bee before and yesterday a hornet was banging into the wall of our little house. Murder hornets. Do they really kill you? The sun is really bright today. By the time I go anywhere my back is going to be drenched in sweat. I don’t mind sweat so much, especially in the summer when it’s mingled with sunscreen and it seems so seasonal just like Christmas trees and snow in the winter. It’s been a long time since I saw snow I think. Maybe a few years ago when we were back in the North Country. Oh, Gus. There was a time my friends and I sledded down a hill there and nearly crashed into a river like in those Calvin and Hobbes comics. I wonder if there will be Calvin and Hobbes on the other side of the field. I have five books of Calvin and Hobbes. On page 16 of The Indispensable is the one where his dad makes him take a portrait photo. I know so many pages of those books. I think page 220 has something, or maybe 221. And then in the There’s Treasure Everywhere -or maybe The Authoritative (no that’s the one with the antelope)- is the strip of Calvin walking down the staircase. That strip used to hang in the kitchen in the North Country. Oh, Gus. Hardly anyone is like that in the South Country. What will people be like on the other side of the field? They told me I had to cross it if I wanted to see them again. Do I want to see them again? There was a time that they nearly broke our radio because they threw it against the refrigerator. And then the time at the lake with the radio. It’s still fine, though, or it was. Probably in some junkyard in North Country -oh, Gus- now. And then the fridge. That was always a little broken after the incident. Before, I could get ice out of it, but after, it just leaked. A real pain on hot days like this. The grass would always shrivel up and die. The grass here isn’t dead, though, it’s green. Flashing with dew, like pieces of ice. Oh, the ice rink… I wonder if there’s ice on the other side of the field. No, it’d probably get all melted if the sun is like this all the time. Will there be beaches, then? Because I still don’t know if I want to cross the field. Beaches could make it worth it, though. I remember when I was little and we went to beaches in the summer. I would ride my bike -ugh, the gears always cut me- and then try to ride on the sand, but my bike would get stuck. I hate when sand gets stuck in your sandwich, and then you feel all disgusting and grainy. And in the water, when you accidently swallow. I hate the salt. And, it means that sharks can live in the water. I’ve never seen a shark -except at the aquarium (oh, remember when Johnny fell into the penguins habitat)- but I’ve read books and watched movies -not Jaws, but that was mentioned in one of my favorite books. I love fantasy, honestly. And everything to do with mythology. But what were they thinking to send Percy, who’s 12, across the country by himself? Harry Potter makes more sense that way. Still, both series are good. If only magic was real… Will it be real across the field? Only one way to find out, I guess. But wait. I’m not going to rush into this without thinking. Binoculars. I used binoculars at baseball games and once at a play. They’re weird, binoculars. Like a camera but not. Over the field, I can see some mountains in the distance. They’re all faded like, and really tall. Mount Olympus? At any rate, I’m not going to climb a mountain just to see them again. Not like the people in The Sound of Music. Oh, that movie is so good. I probably know every word, to the dialogue and the songs. Fredrick looks really weird with his hair slicked back, though. And the Baroness. Ugh. I know all the words to The Princess Bride, too. That one sounds like music, as musical as The Sound of Music. It’s like a lullaby. The Cliffs of Insanity! Inconceivable! I am not left-handed! There was a point back in the North Country -oh, Gus- when I just rattled on and on about The Princess Bride to T. She was so confused… I miss T. But I’ll never see her again anyway. If I go over the mountains –Sound of Music– maybe she’ll be there. I don’t know. Some clouds are passing over the sun, and now it’s cooler out. I’ve always loved clouds. They look so magical on the top, too. And the stars. Ryan’s Belt, she called it. Will Orion be over there? Maybe he’ll be real now. Maybe everything will be real that isn’t, like unicorns. There was a unicorn in Harry Potter. Voldemort. Ack, the sun is back out. Well, I’ve decided. I’m going across the field.
Peri Gordon, 10
My kitten’s fur feels soft like a cloud looks soft or looks like it feels soft today the clouds look like emotions dark unhappy angry in West light nice good in East I don’t feel that nice and good but it would be too good for anyone but I am not upset either got good grades today hopefully but if I didn’t I’m happy because good piano lesson though it was tiring and now I get to maybe see my friends I wonder if they are right now happy thinking about seeing me wait I should get back to homework oh this will be so hard don’t want other animals are lucky don’t have as much work but still learn to do what they need to do but still I’d rather make a bigger difference so learning is good but animals do make bigger difference among their kind maybe we act like making a difference means with other humans but Earth is for everyone does one in everyone sometimes mean humans but should mean everyone meaning animals too I mean humans are animals but I mean other creatures I remember when I was little and other kids didn’t believe me that humans are animals but I had been told now I know humans are Homo sapiens Homo homo home our home is as humans on Earth so my home is just tiny I am so small and galaxy crazy big never-ending how is that possible and how can time not have a beginning apparently human brains cannot understand different big rules like this rules rules my rules say do homework so I guess I’ll do my work math
Thinking about the dress
Liam Hancock, 12
I buy her the dress. She pins her hair into a bun and smiles at me. Manicured teeth. Straight. Glistening the dim illustration of the candles that line her face. My coin purse is left empty. She comes to give me hers. I decline. And so she goes to put on the dress.
I’ve never seen anything quite like it, now that I come to think long and hard. Not in the cottage, nor my father’s humble trees in the north, nor in the face of my mother, bless her soul. Not a beauty of the world can feel confident when it stands beside her, while green eyes cast my way if not for a second. Light glows from pale skin. Her boots tap the damp ground, still fruitful from the night before.
She asks me a question. I give her the answer. I look to the clerk. He scarcely manages to look at me. His eyes are piercing and grey and they tell me that my time is up. She must leave. I must leave, too. Ay, we must leave here and go our separate ways. Me to the farmlands. Her to the manors of the noble place to be tended to by her maids and sip steaming tea from china cups and dip her delicate toes into warm water and prepare for the wedding.
She nods to me in a fanciful manner, as I can expect none the less. Don’t go. You haven’t thanked me. I am a young man and know not much of the life you have. You have yet shown your appreciation to me only with your square teeth and tapping boots. But things will always be as they must. I am still a young man. I still know not of your joys.
I watch from the clouded mists as she walks out once more. Shrouding me with their sinister tendrils. She does not change out of the dress. It swishes, turbulent as the fretting wind. I am alone again. I should have known. Knowledge, I am afraid, is a painful thing to behold.
And yet for reasons I do not know, I remain plastered to the wall. Thank me. Bid me farewell. Speak any few words you may have anymore. She remains silent still. She ducks into the carriage and the coachmen swings the door shut. I wait for any acknowledgement. A wave of her hand, possibly, or even one more smile. But it is above such customs for her to do so. I remain a man who will never know of the green.
I drift from the place and embrace the nothingness beneath my feet. She will see me again. That I know. She will be in that dress, dancing and laughing and tapping her boots upon another floor. She will be holding hands on the stage. She will say “I do” and she will fall into the hands of another man. The dress will be swishing still. I have held the fabric with my own two hands. But it will never be fitted for my tears again. She will be lead away by the man and the dress will drag on the steps behind her. She will walk into her hall and she will ask of her maids to dispose of it. She will forget, inevitably of course. What have I done? I have widened the berth between us, indecipherable now.
I stumble through the bliss of loss. White. It is white. I turn my head. It is white. A man. No beauty. Dresses. Boots tapping upon the floor. Wheels of fire and timber roll with thunder beside me. I keep my eyes trained forward, destined to find the end. Perhaps it will be a long way or perhaps my breath will be stolen from my body before I arrive. But I will find the end.
I am hit, square in the carriage by something afront. I fall to the white. I feel the somethings of reality unfold beneath these red and chapping hands. White. Intensifying, unsheathing. Holding my breath. I have found the end of the nothingness much sooner than I could have ever anticipated. I am trying to register something. Anything. White. Intensifying, unsheathing. You cannot break what has already been broken.
… what now?
It’s hard to wake up, to face the future. Full of tricks and misgivings, of lies and problems. It gives you despair to face and pushes problems into your arms, even if you have neither arm or leg. Sometimes I am the victum being crushed by the spears of the world and they give me naught in return. the world, the world, the world, an unfairly treating place, and sometimes I worry robots will run the place. The humans are uncaring and so is the universe and the bots of the earth will take the chance the second they are given it. And alas, the sky which was one day backthen a brilliant spectacular eyecatching blueandgreen and now the clouds are made from dust and smoke, smoke and dust. the birds are dropping at our feet and over them we step, knowingnaught where we going. humans have brains but use them we do not, we are just a tribe of wandering soldiers, thinking naught and but yet we think we think of everything where else we think of nothing we are persons stringed together with a string so visible it is invisible and under the weakest hand which it makes it rather stronger we are moved like the puppeteers of of europe. our every move that we think is our own is not ours but another force’s , but wait– that makes all of this writing I am typing not my own? and also the question is not mine but the weakest yet strongest force? So everything, including myself reading and typing, not mine but someone else’s ? But that is not not wrong, which is not right which in turn is wrong which is.. what now?
have i said too much
Tristan Hui, 14
A man with a long beard if you turned hus head upsidedown if would be a mohawk on a rockstar with the guitar on his shirt like a torn lightning nold want to run for cover beneath a gray sky in a ditch you lie still. Lying to me you continue they say they have no food or water on there way into the thetre.In there you go back intime does a telephone booth have anything to dow ith it likoe in a movie not reallllllly i think you need to be strong don;t leave the m here on this hilltoooop is someone bleeding maybe or no we are in the bedroom singing or rather suggesting and sheis singing to us like mother but the storm outside is raging and it kmakes me want to cry whenever i feel unhahppy the building caves in and we are dazeddddddddddd iiiin this rubble of something shipped. Al ost package is behi Nd the watering can under the gardenttabele do yu love her really captain and can you tell me why you came beach i was wondering if perhaps pyou would like to change your mind i broke the rules but im not sorry maybe i should tell them they cant take that there the world around us is runed i as plains crash into toweerss tectonic plates warping warp the lpom and weave quickly theyre are people waiting now no one had anything to wait for andif we are still waiting we are in vain and a ship travels a cross thoe sea should i hear that no but the ship anyway back to the ship standing in the rubble altogether sstuned shocked litlsnts and frozen like pompei my thoyfffffhts cross like the song repeat the chorus except its different everty thime and i cant get over her should i stay or should i go budadddadad and the beato f the drum rumbles and shakes the ground where we go back to standing int that trubble together dazed and unmoving like statutes or muaneqiunj s in a store thay are rich but iiive ost my train of thought and its cderailed ahnd circling on the loof at my feet beneath the tabel we laugh ast this but now iiiiieve found it so back to theat’ we were standing n the rubble still very still not lying there like were ar the startnte of the page bot this oen oneseparge one we were on the airport see so many faces in you turned them upside down thay would be other people like that picture in the airt troom what a troageodyh but ive lost the train again perhaps you shouldve put a cowbell around her neck have you checked the barn you know how much she adoerws the animals considering that its her i suggest you lppk in someplace unusual and youre eyelids flutter you turn again waay. I dont know enough that somes in handy but i know all about things people dont necsesayily want to heer. Bu8 there you go ive lost my train of thought aga in so ill go on woh much should i say revealing names thats not in my cntoratct Oscar the camera man they think he is. His face is pockmarjed they saty like pompey and the walls tumbled around us we stoooood liseint clutch his arm and shaking but he is hakeing too cry when the bleach touches your hair grip the arms of the chaiya cconckney accent she did it ewas good i dont know im not cocklney am i revealing too much maybe i dont write to kitty but console my selve ifm nor showing this to anyone maybe is this a lie we’ve been deciebes you hold the powerof what is funny iiin the palm of your hand she ran into the room calling my name and hugged me and i loved her in tihat moment i still sdo this is dofunitely totot muh you dont just share therse things with the man at the airport but i AM the man at the airport and i see the bearded man with the turnab who is a rockstar upside down.
Active Allegra, 10
Why does life have to be so complicated one day you are so happy and carefree and the next going in the worst place you could imagine it just doesn’t make sense some people live the happy carefree moments but some live the sad and stuck I really don’t know which one I am I mean I can be both but my family might say we are not I do not know because I have been stuck inside for 13 years of my life I have no idea what is going to happen to me if I have family or not I am stuck whether deciding to be carefree or sad and stuck deciding which one I am if you were to meet me then you would know but you won’t actually what am i you choose honestly I don’t care but you can if you want it is kind of obvious I think I am am stuck and sad because I am writing my mind out to you I hope you want more of me because I am going to tell you more my mom is 43 and my dad is 47 they met a while a go and they were both carefree and innocent I don’t really know why they got married because they are always fighting and I guess that’s why I am sad because if they showed their emotions to me then I would see that I take after them in my personality anyway I hope you’re ok because I am done see ya later wait what are you also I don’t really care but see you later
The Mechanical Mind
Vishnu Mangipudi, 12
I peered up at the ceiling. There was a railroad track inside my house, and I would always stare at it for long periods of time. However, the train soon flew up to my head and knocked my unrealistic visions down to earth. My train of thoughts had begun to bellow steam, and soon I had gotten out of bed and planned out my day. “Do I eat eggs or bread for breakfast? Should I eat both?” The mechanical engine within my brain began to whir at an astonishingly fast pace, making many split-second decisions that would generally have taken me minutes in bed. I dressed up, fetched my breakfast, and took the bus to school.
In school, the train continued to erupt bursts of smoke, each one corresponding to another thought-provoking revelation. “How would you write this phrase in Spanish? How would you solve this terrific mathematical equation.” Every problem that was hurled my way was immediately solved by my inner machinery, the smoke continuing to fill my head as the day went on and on.
At the end of school, I had begun to eat my lunch, the mechanical marvels in my head rebooting and running at a fresh new pace. I began to work on my science project assigned earlier in the day. Each step I had taken, each calculation that I had done, each paper I had glued, burned to fuel supply in my head, emitting more and more steam. Eventually, a few hours later, my head had just about had it. The smoke in my head was so concentrated that it began to obscure my vision and clog up my machinery. Soon, my machinery had begun to break down, and I felt a rush of drowsiness overtake me as I fell into a deep, sound, slumber. Slowly but surely, the steam in my head began to vent out, and several hours later, the smoke was cleared, preparing me for the trials of the next day.
Lucy Rados, 13
She looked at the lake. She thought the green looked rather strange, since she thought water was blue. She hadn’t had water to drink for a while, she noticed, and was pretty thirsty. Usually, she was thirsty in the forest, where there were just trees and leaves crinkling underfoot. The crinkling of leaves was pretty annoying, kind of like the sound of taking wrapping paper off of presents. Except that crinkling was not quite as bad, since it meant she was getting a gift. Christmas was pretty close she realized, just a couple more months. That meant she would have to go through Thanksgiving, a pretty good holiday, even though Turkey wasn’t great. She liked chicken better and they had chickens in the backyard. But she wouldn’t want to eat them. She really wanted a cat. They had very cute faces. Dogs were good to but they would be a lot of work. Work was the worst. At least she had the weekend off from school right now. That was nice. Except she usually watched shows on weekends, not went on hikes. Still good, however. Wow, she was very thirsty now that she thought of it. She looked back at the lake. Still green. That was weird. Usually, green things were trees. Her favorite tree was in front of her house. One time, when she climbed it, Julia fell off and pulled her down and Julia had to go to the hospital because she broke her leg, while she stayed behind with a broken wrist. Julia had to stop doing sports for a while. She never did sports in the first place, and thought that friends like Julia were wasting their time. Speaking of wastes of time, running was a big one. Her parents made her go on jogs. They also made her volunteer places, which was annoying. So many things were annoying, like that stupid green lake and her thirst.